A photo of Mark Turner holding his award

Congratulations, Mark Turner for being this year's honoree!

This past week, Marketing and Communications Director Chanelle Bertelsen sat down with Head of School Mark Turner to discuss the announcement of the Ruzicka Leadership Award.

C.B.: First of all, congratulations Mark! The SMUS community is excited about your news. Winning this award truly speaks to your leadership, and to the guidance you have provided SMUS over the last five years.

My first question is: What key principles or values do you believe are essential for effective leadership within the boarding education context?

Mark Turner: Boarding provides so many wonderful opportunities for developing leadership qualities. Having been involved in boarding either directly or indirectly since I started as a boarding student aged 8, I can testify to numerous ways boarding encourages leadership. These include the encouragement of independent thinking, the practice of teamwork and networking, the development of both resilience and empathy, and, importantly within the SMUS context, a particular focus on courage and honesty.

C.B.: How do you envision the role of boarding schools evolving in the educational landscape, especially considering challenges posed by the numerous, recent global events?

M.T.: I have always felt that boarding schools have a really important contribution to make. Within boarding, students and staff are encouraged to establish effective and strong working relationships with people from all walks of life. At SMUS, we welcome students from over 35 different countries.

It is often said that boarding builds the strongest relationships and that it also teaches how to get along with those with whom you have little in common. I have often heard boarding alumni say that boarding even taught them to get on with people they didn’t immediately like! This is a vital life skill, much needed in our fractious world.

C.B.: Reflecting on your career, what are some pivotal lessons or moments that have significantly shaped your approach to leadership in education?

M.T.: Over 30 years of working in and leading boarding communities, thankfully much has gone very well. That said, I found it to be true that all communities can appear strong in the good times. How a boarding community binds together during periods of pressure, challenge, or even outright crisis, is the real test. I have found that working in boarding, integrity (honesty) is vital. If you are not true to yourself, you will quickly be exposed. Although perhaps not as popular as in other times, resilience and grit are also crucial life skills.

C.B.: What does receiving the Ruzicka Leadership Award mean to you personally, and how does it resonate with your vision for education?

M.T.: As anybody working in a school knows… it is always nice to be appreciated! From a personal point of view, I was proud in 2010 to be awarded the title of Tatler Headmaster of the Year in the UK. To receive two top awards over two continents most definitely gives me a warm glow of satisfaction! And as one fellow Head of School put it, ‘better than a slap around the face with a wet fish’!

C.B.: How do you hope this recognition will influence or inspire the broader boarding school community?

M.T.: The award is in many ways a tribute to the growing reputation and strength of the SMUS boarding program, which has benefited over recent years from the inspirational leadership of Keith Driscoll.

In boarding, every day is a fresh opportunity for leadership training, both for staff and students. It is no surprise to me that so many boarding students move on to positions of leadership and influence in their chosen professions and communities. Just by living in a boarding house, leadership is absorbed, as if by osmosis through everyday experience.

C.B.: What are some of the most critical innovations or changes that boarding schools should embrace to stay relevant and impactful in the coming years?

M.T.: Boarding communities have always embraced diversity. With students from over 35 different countries, there are wonderful opportunities to learn about the religions, customs, cultures, and opinions of people from different backgrounds. Living cheek by jowl, sharing triumph and disaster, boarding is at the forefront of EDI initiatives.

In a fast-changing world, the real benefits of living alongside others are as relevant now as they were hundreds of years ago. Boarding is now kinder, more inclusive, and facilities are much better than many of our alumni will remember. Nevertheless, the benefits of living your life in a close community remain very much the same.

C.B.: What advice would you give to educators or individuals aspiring to leadership roles within boarding schools?

M.T.: I would encourage anybody who works at SMUS, or indeed any school, to be involved in boarding. I believe SMUS benefits enormously from boarding, which is regarded by many as ‘the beating heart’ of our school. Not only does it encourage a holistic vision of education, it also enables a unique perspective into the lives of young people. In boarding, there is no doubt you are required to give a great deal but the rewards and benefits are incalculable. Boarding provides the setting for so many ‘ordinary miracles’.